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Can I use that Picture? Terms, Laws, and Ethics for using copyrighted images

January 11, 2015 4 comments

An infographic on The Visual Communication Guy website from Dr Newbold, whose background is Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design, offers a way to fairly quickly and easily help data users decide if and how they can use copyrighted online images.  Given the ease of sharing of data in our cloud-based GIS world, we write frequently in this blog and focus part of our book on discussing copyright. While Dr Newbold’s infographic is intended for those using still photography, much can be applied to spatial data.  Keeping with our theme of being critical of data, however, verify this infographic against other sources before beginning any project using imagery and data that are not your own.

My rule of thumb in using  photography in web maps, storymaps, map layouts, web pages, and in other ways is to use my own photographs whenever possible, such as on this story map, since according to copyright law, I own the copyright to them. Lacking my own images, I then turn to US government or other non-copyrighted images, or images marked as Creative Commons, such as most images from Wikimedia.  If all of these sources do not result in the images I need, and I truly want to use a copyrighted image, such as a few on this Colorado map I created, I ask permission, clearly stating my (educational) intent, and I do not use the image unless the permission is granted.

Clear, helpful definitions of key terms accompany the graphic:  (1)  Copyright:  The protection given to any created image or work from being copied or distributed without permission.  All images are immediately given copyright to the creator when the image is created.  (2)  Fair Use:  The legal right to use copyrighted images as long as the images are used for educational, research, or personal use or as long as the image benefits the public good in some way.  (3)  Creative Commons:  Images that are copyrighted but the creator has put provisions on their use.  A creative commons license might stipulate, for example, that an image can be used as long as it isn’t modified in any way.  (4)  Public Domain:  Images that no longer have copyright restrictions either because the creator willingly relinquished their copyright or because the creator is dead and no one owns the copyright.

Can I use that Picture?  Terms, laws, and ethics  for using copyrighted images

Can I use that Picture? Terms, laws, and ethics for using copyrighted images.

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Era of Big Data is Here: But Caution Is Needed

September 25, 2017 Leave a comment

As this blog and our book are focused on geospatial data, it makes sense that we discuss trends in data–such as laws, standards, attitudes, and tools that gradually helping more users to more quickly find the data that they need.  But with all of these advancements we continue to implore decision makers to think carefully about and investigate the data sources they are using.  This becomes especially critical–and at times difficult–when that data is in the “big data” category.  The difficulty arises when big data is seen as so complex that often it is cited and used in an unquestioned manner.

Equally challenging and at times troublesome is when the algorithms based on that data are unchallenged, and when access to those algorithms are blocked to those who seek to understand who created them and what data and formulas they are based on.  As these data and algorithms increasingly affect our everyday lives, this can become a major concern, as explained in data scientist Cathy O’Neil’s TED talk,  who says “the era of blind faith in big data must end.”

In addition, the ability to gain information from mapping social media is amazing and has potential to help in so many sectors of society.  This was clearly evident with the usefulness of social media posts that emergency managers in Texas and Florida USA mapped during the August-September 2017 hurricanes there.  However, with mapping social media comes an equal if not greater need for caution, as this article that points out the limitations of such data for understanding health and mitigating the flu.  And from a marketing standpoint, Paul Goad cautioned here against relying on data alone.

It is easy to overlook an important point in all this discussion on data, big data, and data science. We tend to refer to these phenomena in abstract terms but these data largely represent us – our lives, our habits, our shopping preferences, our choice of route on the way to work, the companies and organisations we work for and so on. Perhaps less data and data science and more humanity and humanity science.  As Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has said, “We must remember that technology remains a tool of humanity.  How can we, and corporate giants, then use these big data archives as a tool to serve humanity?”

Understanding your data

Use caution in making decisions from data–even if you’re using “Big Data” and algorithms derived from it.    Photograph by Joseph Kerski. 

Categories: Public Domain Data

Spatial Law and its Relevance to Geospatial Practitioners – Review

March 27, 2016 2 comments

Understanding the legal aspects of GIS has always been important, going back to its inclusion in the GIS&T Body of Knowledge and earlier, but with cloud-based data and services, UAVs, and other trends and tools, it is more important than ever.  A series of essays on spatial law and its relevance to geospatial professionals from the folks at the GIS Lounge provides an excellent resource to supplement our book and this blog.

In these three essays, Sangeeta Deogawanka defines spatial law and some areas that spatial law governs. She goes on to focus on remote sensing policies, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAVs and UASs), GPS, and touches on the implications of GIS in the cloud.  She finishes by discussing how the purpose for gathering data can determine policies and regulations, including data capture, storage, use sharing, intellectual property rights, and privacy policies.

One of the resources provided at the end of the series is the site for the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy,  of which we have high regard, and to which we referred recently when we wrote about photograph location privacy.  Sangeeta also providees a useful link to 10 spatial laws and policies around the world.

What are your reactions to the relevance of spatial law to the geospatial profession and decision making?

 

Three Lessons for Improving Data Access

March 21, 2016 Leave a comment

 

This week’s guest post is courtesy of Brian Goldin, CEO of Voyager Search.

The Needle in the Haystack

Every subculture of the GIS industry is preaching the gospel of open data initiatives. Open data promises to result in operational efficiencies and new innovation. In fact, the depth and breadth of geo-based content available rivals snowflakes in a blizzard. There are open data portals and FTP sites to deliver content from the public sector. There are proprietary solutions with fancy mapping and charting applications from the private sector. There are open source and crowd sourced offerings that grow daily in terms of volume of data and effectiveness of their solutions. There are standards for metadata. There are laws to enforce that it all be made available. Even security stalwarts in the US and global intelligence communities are making the transition. It should be easier than ever to lay your hands on the content you need. But now, we struggle to find the needle in a zillion proverbial haystacks.

Ironically, GIS users and data consumers need to be explorers and researchers to find what they need. We remain fractured about how to reach the nirvana where not only is the data open, but also it is accurate, well documented, and available in any form. We can do better, and perhaps we learn some lessons from consumer applications that changed the way we find songs, buy a book, or discover any piece of information on the web.

Lesson one: Spotify for data.

In 1999, Napster landed a punch, knocking the wind out of the mighty music publishing industry. When the dust settled, the music industry prevailed, but it did so in a weakened state with their market fundamentally changed. Consumers’ appetite for listening to whatever they wanted for free made going back to business as usual impossible. Spotify ultimately translated that demand into an all-you-can-eat music model. The result is that in 2014 The New Yorker reported that Spotify’s user base was more than 50 million worldwide with 12.5 million subscribers. By June 2015, it was reportedly 20 million subscribers. Instead of gutting the music publishers, Spotify helped them to rebound.

Commercial geospatial and satellite data providers should take heed. Content may well be king, but expensive, complicated pricing models are targets for disruption. It is not sustainable to charge a handful of customer exorbitant fees for content or parking vast libraries of historical data on the sidelines while smaller players like Skybox, gather more than 1 terabyte of data a day and open source projects gather road maps of the world. Ultimately, we need a business model that gives users an all-you-can-eat price that is reasonable rather than a complex model based on how much the publisher thinks you can pay.

Lesson two: Google for GIS.

We have many options for finding the data, which means that we have a zillion stovepipes to search. What we need is unification across those stovepipes so that we can compare and contrast their resources to find the best content available.

This does not mean that we need one solution for storing the data and content. It just means we need one place for searching and finding all of the content no matter where it exists, what it is, what software created it or how it is stored. Google does not house every bit of data in a proprietary solution, nor does it insist on a specific standard of complex metadata in order for a page to be found. It if did, Internet search would resemble the balkanised GIS search experience we have today. But when I want GIS content, I have to look through many different potential sources to discover what might be the right one.

What is required is the ability to crawl all of the data, content, services and return a search page that shows the content on a readable, well formatted page with some normalised presentation of metadata that includes the location, the author, a brief description and perhaps the date it was created, no matter where it this resides. We need to enable people to compare content with a quick scan and then dig deeper into whatever repository houses it. We need to use their search results to inform the next round of relevancy and even to anticipate the answers to their questions. We need to enable sharing and commenting and rating on those pages to show where and how user’s feel about that content. This path is well-worn in the consumer space, but for the GIS industry these developments lag years behind as limited initiatives sputter and burn out.

Lesson 3. Amazon for geospatial.

I can find anything I want to buy on Amazon, but it doesn’t all come from an Amazon warehouse nor does Amazon manufacture it. All of the content doesn’t need to be in one place, one solution or one format; so long as it is discoverable in and deliverable from one place. Magically, anything I buy can be delivered through a handy one-click delivery mechanism! Sure, sometimes it costs money to deliver it, other times it’s free, but consumers aren’t challenged to learn a new checkout system each and every time they buy from a new vendor. They don’t have to call a help desk for assistance with delivery.

Today, getting your hands on content frequently requires a visit an overburdened GIS government staffer who will deliver the content to you. Since you might not be able to see exactly what they have, you almost always ask for more than you need. You’ll have no way of knowing when or how that data was updated. What should be as easy as clip-zip-and-ship delivery — the equivalent of gift-wrapping a package on Amazon — seems a distant dream. But why is this?

While agency leadership extols the virtues of open government initiatives, if their content is essentially inaccessible, the risk of being punished for causing frustration is minimal compared with that of exposing bad data or classified tidbits. So why bother when your agency’s first mandate is to accomplish some other goal entirely and your budget is limited? Government’s heart is certainly behind this initiative, but is easily outweighed by legitimate short-term risks and the real world constraints on human and financial resources.

The work of making public content discoverable in an open data site as bullet proof as Amazon’s limitless store seems can and should be done by industry with the support of the government so that everyone may benefit. In the private sector, we will find a business model to support this important work. But here’s the catch. This task will never be perceived as being truly open if it is done by a company that builds GIS software. The dream of making all GIS content discoverable and open, requires that it everyone’s products are equally discoverable. That’s a huge marketing challenge all by itself. Consider that Amazon’s vision of being the world’s largest store does not include making all of the stuff sold there. There really is a place for a company to play this neutral role between the vendors, the creators of the content and the public that needs it.

On the horizon

We have come so far in terms of making content open and available. The data are out there in a fractured world. What’s needed now isn’t another proprietary system or another set of standards from an open source committee. What’s really needed is a network of networks that makes single search across all of this content, data and services possible whether it’s free or for a fee. We should stop concerning ourselves with standards for this or that, and let the market drive us toward those inevitable best practices that help our content to be found. I have no doubt that the brilliant and creative minds in this space will conquer this challenge.

Brian Goldin, CEO of Voyager Search.

Marine Cadastre Data Viewer and Portal

January 31, 2016 1 comment

The Marine Cadastre Data Viewer and Portal provides direct access to authoritative marine cadastral data from U.S. federal and state sources, including information on the tracks of vessels, bathymetry, administrative boundaries, and fish, bird, and other species.  It provides baseline information needed for ocean planning efforts, particularly those that involve finding the best location for renewable energy projects. The MarineCadastre.gov National Viewer uses Esri web GIS technology and is also a helpful tool in the permit review process. Users can select the ocean geography of their choosing and quickly see the applicable jurisdictional boundaries, restricted areas, laws, critical habitat locations, and other important features. With the national viewer, potential conflicts can be identified and avoided early in the planning process.

The site offers two distinct advantages:  1)  The ability to view over 75 data layers from a variety of sources in a single live ArcGIS Online-based web map viewer; 2)  The ability to download those same layers from the map interface for additional analysis.  We have been critical in this blog about sites that get the user tantalizingly close to downloading the data but never quite allow it.  This one delivers. The only thing I have not been able to get to work during my review of the resource is the buffer tool.

See this site for additional information about the data layers and services.  In addition, you can explore the set of layers on ArcGIS Online in the Marine Cadastre group.

Confusion and Conflict in Boundary Law: A Recent Case along the Coast

April 27, 2015 1 comment

An article in The American Surveyor by Michael J. Pallamary highlights a recent case where the author states that the US Supreme Court has recently introduced confusion and conflict in boundary law. The intention of the law, it was hoped, would settle a decades-old dispute over the location of California’s offshore boundary, a line common with the United States’ boundary in that part of the world.  The conflict stemmed from 1946 when the federal government sued California for leasing land for oil drilling offshore from Long Beach.  The federal government stated that the submerged lands belonged to the federal government and not the state.  The location of the state boundary is apparently three geographical miles distant from its coastline.

Any geographer or GIS analyst must see the “red flags” fly when they read “coastline” as the basis for any boundary, realizing that coastlines change, sea levels change, the definition of the coastline itself means different things to different people, and, remember the good ol’ coastline paradox? Scale matters!  The author, a 50 year professional surveyor who knows what he is talking about, gets right to the point:  The notion of “absolute certainty” in the recent law and prior laws “appears to be derived from the misunderstood notion of significant figures and little to no understanding of geodesy.”  He goes on to state that one organization in California still uses nautical miles and most other agencies use geographical miles, and points out the differences between low water, ordinary low water, mean low water, lower low water, mean high water, and well, you get the idea.  He also states that the coordinate values in the law are expressed as both NAD 83 and WGS 84 UTM, when it is well known that these are not the same, and moreover, they are in an “endless state of flux.”

Why does all this matter?  The locations of boundaries are of critical concern to our 21st Century world. In terms of coastal boundaries, yes, energy extraction remains important as it was during the 1940s, but think of additional issues:  Measuring and assessing property and boundaries of all sorts along coasts, zoning, natural resource protection, shipping, defense and security, responsibilities for emergency management, and a whole host of other coastal and national concerns.

I couldn’t help but sigh and scratch my head upon reading the complexities detailed in this article. It provides a good update to our discussion in our book about the intricacies of boundaries, about the importance of datums, about precision and accuracy, and about knowing what you are doing when you are working in the field of geotechnologies.  In talking with the author, I understand that a petition has been filed, asking that the legislation be redone.  That is good news, but I wonder in how many other cases around the world are boundary related laws passed without consulting the surveying and geodesy community.  Maybe I don’t want to know the answer!  So, until we get our ideal world, I think it is important for all of us in the geospatial community to keep promoting why what you are doing is important to our 21st Century world.  It is my hope that your work will be visible so that you will be called upon from time to time by decision makers at all levels to advise them on legislation that affects us all.

Contour tracing the Line of Mean High Water of the Pacific Ocean

Contour tracing the Line of Mean High Water of the Pacific Ocean, from the American Surveyor.I highly recommend regular reading of the American Surveyor, in addition to reading the Spatial Reserves blog!

UAVs Prohibited in National Parks in the USA

November 10, 2014 2 comments

As we state in our book, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, oftentimes, technological advancement and adoption proceeds at a faster pace than regulations accompanying it.  A perfect example is what is probably the hottest technology in remote sensing right now, and that is UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.  The Internet is becoming rapidly filled with stories and videos of footage from UAVs deployed by aerial survey companies, but even more commonly, operated by the general public.  For example, this storymap contains footage of UAV imagery flown over a rocket launch, a cruise ship, and more.

While I as a geographer are fascinated by these images and videos, I am at the same time sensitive to the myriad of privacy and safety issues raised by the operation of UAVs.  We are beginning to see laws passed to regulate the operation of UAVs on certain lands, such as the recent policy directive against flying these in national parks in the USA.

Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, said that “We embrace many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historic and cultural landscapes in our care.  However, we have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.”  Some parks had already initiated bans after noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, an incident in which park wildlife were harassed, and park visitor safety concerns.  For example, earlier this year, visitors at Grand Canyon National Park gathered for a quiet sunset were interrupted by a loud unmanned aircraft flying back and forth and eventually crashing in the canyon. Volunteers at Zion National Park witnessed an unmanned aircraft disturb a herd of bighorn sheep, reportedly separating adults from young animals.

The policy memorandum directs park superintendents to take a number of steps to exclude unmanned aircraft from national parks. The steps include drafting a written justification for the action, ensuring compliance with applicable laws, and providing public notice of the action.  The memorandum does not affect the primary jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration over the National Airspace System.

The policy memorandum is a temporary measure, and it seems like a wise move. Jarvis said the next step will be to propose a Servicewide regulation regarding unmanned aircraft. That process can take considerable time, depending on the complexity of the rule, and includes public notice of the proposed regulation and opportunity for public comment.  The National Park Service may use unmanned aircraft for administrative purposes such as search and rescue, fire operations and scientific study. These uses must also be approved by the associate director for Visitor and Resource Protection.

Near the Esri office in Colorado a month ago, I witnessed my first UAV flight where I did not know who was operating the vehicle.  I’m sure we will look back in years to come and realize that we in 2014 were at the dawn of a technology that will no doubt transform GIS and our everyday lives.   I anticipate sensors soon capable of capturing imagery in a wide variety of wavelengths, as well as atmospheric and other types of sensors that will further hasten the era of big data.  I am hopeful that we will chart a prudent course through the advent of UAVs, taking advantage of the innumerable benefits that UAVs can offer the GIS industry and also society as a whole.

Does Posting Pictures Compromise Privacy?

August 17, 2014 2 comments

A recent article in the New York Times, discussing “What the Internet Can See from Your Cat Pictures“, began with the statement, “Your cat may never give up your secrets. But your cat photos might.”  The article went on to describe a site that is named, appropriately, “iknowwhereyourcatlives.com”, built by Florida State University professor Owen Mundy.  The site’s web map shows the locations and photographs of thousands of cats, and, presumably, the location of the cat owners.  The site was created to demonstrate “the status quo of personal data usage by startups and international megacorps who are riding the wave of decreased privacy for all,” Professor Mundy wrote describing the site.

I Know Where Your Cat Lives site

I Know Where Your Cat Lives site.

We frequently write about location privacy in this blog, and for good reason.  As the world becomes ever more monitored and measured, the 7+ billion humans inhabiting it are increasingly affected by these monitoring activities.  They are also increasingly contributing to vast archives of data, often inadvertently, in part through the “Internet of Things.”  An increasing proportion of the data collected can be mapped, and therefore, so can people’s location, movements, and habits. The Centre for Spatial Law and Policy site alone contains news and dozens of documents pointing to current issues of location privacy in our everyday lives.  These include a recent story about privacy in the Boston Marathon and frequent reflections about laws and expectations of location privacy.  We recommend that geospatial professionals be aware of the issues through this blog and sites such as the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy.

Geospatial technologies have proven to benefit our planet in ways unimaginable even a few years ago.  However, those involved with the geospatial industry need to be included in the conversations about the privacy implications of the types of data collected to make improvements on our planet.  And even seemingly innocuous activities such as posting pictures of your cat have their share of privacy implications.

Categories: Public Domain Data Tags:

The map makers

January 27, 2014 1 comment

A couple of interesting articles have appeared recently discussing the emergence of Google Maps, the changing fortunes of some other leading mapping companies and an argument against the dominance of Google products in favour of OpenStreetMap. In his article Google’s Road to Global Domination Adam Fisher charts the rise of the Google Maps phenomenon, the visionary aspirations to chart streets in San Francisco that led to the development of Street View and the development of technologies, such as the self-driving car, that will incorporate the accumulated map data and may one day obviate the requirement for individuals to interpret a map for themselves.

Taking a stand against a mapping monopoly, Serge Wroclawski’s post Why the World Needs OpenStreetMap, urges readers to rethink their habitual Google Maps usage in favour of  the ‘neutral and transparent‘ OpenStreetMap. Wroclawski argues that no one company should have sole responsibility for interpreting place, nor the information associated with that place, (we wrote on a similar theme in Truth in Maps about the potential for bias in mapping) and that a map product based on the combined efforts of a global network of contributors, which is free to download and can be used without trading personal location information, is the better option for society. However, in his closing comment Fisher quotes O’Reilly – ‘the guy who has the most data, wins‘. Will OpenStreetMap be able to compete against the power of Google when it comes to data collection? 

Whatever the arguments for or against a certain mapping product, perhaps the most important consideration is choice. As long as users continue to have a choice of map products and are aware of the implications, restrictions and limitations of the products they use, then there should be room for both approaches to the provision of map services. 

  

Shining a torch on location privacy

June 23, 2012 Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago the Olympic Torch was paraded through the village where I live.  In eager anticipation of the event, a couple of elderly neighbours, keen to get the best vantage point, asked if I knew which route the torch would be taken along. Deciding that a map was probably the best way to show this, I cranked up my iPad and opened up a map viewer.  The reaction from both neighbours on seeing their respective houses and surrounds in glorious Technicolor courtesy of some recent satellite imagery went something along the lines of …. ‘Oh look there’s my house … hey wait a minute that’s an invasion of privacy, I didn’t say they could photograph it’.

Trying my best to allay their fears about any perceived intrusion, arguing that the information was being put to many good uses, which by the way included helping us find the best place to see the torch, I couldn’t help thinking their reaction was not uncommon for their generation – immediately suspicious and wary of the implications. By contrast, younger generations are growing up today in a world where having easy access to this level of detailed location information is taken for granted. Not being able to see your house on Google Street View is simply ‘pre-historic’.

Location privacy is an issue we discuss in the book. Just what rights do individuals have now with pervasive street view imagery and video surveillance cameras on almost every street corner?  In response to a number of lawsuits from disgruntled individuals and private businesses, Google have argued that “complete privacy”  no longer exists in this age of satellites and high-resolution imagery, although they have made some concessions in the form face and licence plate blurring to protect unsuspecting passers-by and residents. The technology to capture, record and manipulate location information continues to develop apace;  just what legislation will be required to govern the use of that information is still being debated and it is a discussion that will continue for years.  It’s not the data that are the problem, it’s what some people choose to do with them that’s the issue.